Does your website have any of these technologies or features?
- WordPress, or any other blog or content management system
- Google Analytics, or any similar website analytics program
- Google AdSense and/or AdWords
- Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or other social media "like" buttons or plugins
- A shopping basket/cart
Before we get into how to identify the cookies, let’s have a brief look at what are cookies and their purposes.
What are cookies?
Cookies are small data packets sent from a website and stored on the visitor’s device by the browser. They consist of a name, value, and attributes. Websites and third-party services use the name to identify cookies. Values are unique IDs comprised of a random string of numbers that help cookie creators to identify the users. Attributes consist of information such as expiration date, domain, path, and flags.
Depending on the duration they are stored on the browser, there are either session cookies (stored only while you browse the site) or persistent cookies (stored even after you have left - e.g., one year).
There are different types of cookies, depending on the sources that install them. Cookies that your own website sets are called first-party cookies. The cookies set by other websites who run content on your website are known as third-party cookies. For example, the cookies that Facebook places via your website if somebody 'likes' one of the posts on your site.
Depending upon the purpose of the cookies, the cookies can be strictly necessary and non-necessary cookies. The cookies without which the website will fail to function properly are known as strictly necessary or simply necessary cookies. The cookies which do not directly affect the functioning of the website, are known as non-necessary cookies. They are mainly used for tracking the users' behavior on the website, analyzing the performance of the website, advertisement, etc.
Cookies that are considered strictly necessary:
- Remember items in a shopping basket
- Providing essential security measures
- Used for quick loading and distribution of content
Cookies that are considered non-necessary:
- Google Analytics or similar software to analyze visitors
- Cookies that remember user preferences
- First- and third-party advertising cookies
- Facebook like buttons
How to audit my site for cookies?
You can identify which cookies are being installed from any of the browsers that you are viewing the website on. There are many ways to check cookies. We will discuss two of them - manual (browser developer console and address bar) and free cookie checker tools.
Manual methods to check cookies
You can check for cookies on the website from the developer console and, in some cases, from the address bar of the browser you are viewing the site on. Let’s look at how you can do that in different browsers.
Note - It is recommended to browse the site in private mode for this as it will avoid the loading of cookies from other websites. Also, make sure you have turned off the blocking of cookies from the browser.
Right Click on the page and click on Inspect.
It will open the developer console of Chrome. From there, select the tab Applications. Expand the Cookies in the drop-down menu on the left. You will see all the cookies that the website uses on the right.
It shows the details, such as name, value, and attributes of the cookies.
You can also open the console from the menu on the top right corner of the browser. Select More Tools and then click Developer Tools.
You can also view the cookie list from the address bar. On the left side, click the lock icon (known as the site identity button) and then click on Cookies.
You will see the cookies that are allowed as well as those that are blocked.
In the Opera browser, the setting for viewing the cookie list from developer console and address bar is the same as Chrome.
You can also open the console from the top left corner. Select Developer and then click Developer Tools.
Right Click on the page and select Inspect Element.
This will open the developer console. From there, select the tab Storage. Expand the drop-down list Cookies on the left. This will list all the cookies used by the website on the right, with the details of name, value, and attributes.
You can also open the console from the menu on the right. Go to Web Developer and then Web Console.
To view the cookies from the address bar, select the site information button on the left side of the bar. It will list down all the third-party and tracking cookies used by the site.
You can open the developer console in Edge, just like Firefox.
From the toolbar, however, you have to go to More Tools and then click Developer Tools.
Right click on the web page and click Inspect Element.
It will open the developer console. From the console, select the tab Storage and then expand the Cookies drop-down on the left. It will list all cookies that the website uses with its name, value, and attributes.
Free Website Cookie Checker Tools
Apart from checking on the developer console for the cookies, there are multiple tools and services that can help you list the cookies used by your website. One such service for checking the cookies on your website is CookieServe. All you need to do is enter the URL of the page to which you want to check for the cookies. It will list all the cookies used by the page.
It's important not just to check your homepage, but all the additional pages. There may be cookies being set by the content management system, such as WordPress or plugins or third-party services that only run on certain pages. This article details the cookies used by WordPress and their purposes.
After you have found the cookies used on your website, the next step is to show the world how you comply with the GDPR Cookie Law.
Read this article for The Best Free and User-friendly WordPress Plugins for GDPR Cookie Compliance.